...A nation's existence throughout history demands the ability to see through the fog of dark skies. Bar Kokhba's cries for freedom and liberty ("He was a hero, he called out for freedom, the whole nation revered him" -- author Levin Kipnis) shook an empire from its seven pillars. And the Roman empire fell. The statue of Hadrian today looks out over the city of Jerusalem, which is thriving. That's the difference.
18 May '14..
How many other nations can see things with the same broad historic perspective as the Jewish people? Who else can face history, judge its many illusions, and come out on top?
Only the Jews, it seems. Indeed, many cynics out there immediately disregard the historic parallels that can, every once in a while, be discerned. Take, for example, the statue of Hadrian that was discovered in 1984 at an archaeological dig in Beit Shean, and remains on display at the Israel Museum. The question it begs is: "Where are they, and where are we now?"
The statue of the Roman emperor is standing at the heart of the very city whose name Hadrian sought to change to Aelia Capitolina. The Roman empire disappeared, but Jerusalem persists, nested and flourishing on its hill. Nearly two dozen empires wandered through the lands of Israel, and each and every one of them has vanished from the main stage of history.
The nation of Israel, though, never boasted an empire. Even during the reigns of kings David and Solomon, people never spoke of it in such terms. Still, that being the case, this tiny nation probably should have disappeared. But such are the jokes of historians. Indeed there was no shortage of subversive efforts against the Roman empire, even among the rabbinical elite, in the period that preceded the Bar Kokhba revolt. But then Rabbi Akiva came along -- one of the greatest of his generation, perhaps of all generations -- and instilled the epic revolt with a faithful spirit.
Bar Kokhba -- whose title of "controversial hero" completely fails to do him justice -- led the Jewish people under his historical-national jurisprudence on a bloody, heroic struggle, leaving aspirations of freedom and liberty pumping through his veins. In reality, Bar Kokhba, with Rabbi Akiva's support, fine-tuned our nationalistic genetic code. So now, 1,800 years later, even dogged cynics are forced to admit that the Jewish nation has returned to its homeland, rising from the ashes like the legendary phoenix.
Although the revolt failed and the toll was unbearably high, there is no dispute among historians, even those outside Israel: the Jewish rebellions throughout the Roman empire caused irreparable cracks. The Bar Kokhba revolt fundamentally undermined beliefs that the Roman empire's culture and fortitude would last forever. Letters written by Roman commanders stationed in Israel back to the homefront attested to that fact. The thrill of victory was gone; the price Bar Kokhba's warriors exacted was a painful one.
So why the intense criticism of Bar Kokhba, the man, "his errors" and his "messianism"? The legacy of our leaders and philosophers is determined, unfortunately, only after several years have passed, after generations have gone. The wisdom of "retrospect" is inadequate. Patience won't do Bar Kokba's detractors any good, just as it won't do Israel's enemies any good.
Lag Ba'omer bonfires indicate that sometimes the wisdom of the masses is much greater than the wisdom of myopic hindsight. And this isn't just characteristic of the Jewish people. A nation's existence throughout history demands the ability to see through the fog of dark skies. Bar Kokhba's cries for freedom and liberty ("He was a hero, he called out for freedom, the whole nation revered him" -- author Levin Kipnis) shook an empire from its seven pillars. And the Roman empire fell. The statue of Hadrian today looks out over the city of Jerusalem, which is thriving. That's the difference.